Nuclear engineering doctoral student Clarice Phelps recently presented at a virtual spotlight on Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted by the American Nuclear Society Young and Student Members. Phelps made national headlines that trended on Twitter in 2019 for the key role she played in the discovery of a new element in 2010—element 117—aptly named Tennessine. She became the first African American woman to be involved in the discovery of an element on the periodic table.
For the ANS spotlight on ORNL, Phelps joined other scientists presenting on interesting research currently underway at the national laboratory, specifically presenting on the super-heavy elements and the research currently underway for the discovery of elements 119 and 120.
Super-heavy elements are considered important potential new energy sources. Currently they can only be created synthetically, and they decay within fractions of a second.
Scientists at ORNL are hopeful that new super-heavy element discoveries will lead them to the island of stability for radioisotopes where longer half-lives exist and where these isotopes could prove suitable for potential use as nuclear fuel.